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RE: PDF Alternatives?

Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2000 10:36:51 -0500
Message-Id: <s987f9d3.025@EEOC.GOV>
To: cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Note: this is unofficial, personal opinion, not official view of the agency.

Yes, using an HTML form, a person with a screenreader could easily fill in their data. But then what? We would either:

- Pump the data into a database or other form of electronic tracking or processing system. For some forms, something new would have to be built. For others that are already tracked electronically, an interface to the web site would need to be built (made rather more difficult by the fact that we rent space on someone else's server, and have no direct access to it, and no direct contact between the web server and our internal systems).

- Generate a print form, to be processed manually. Since this would be a very different form from the existing paper versions, this would require retraining (remember, government implies bureaucracy, which makes simple tasks more difficult) and union involvement.

- I haven't gotten confirmation, but I believe certain forms are processed with an automated scanning system. Either this would have to be reconfigured to handle a form printed from web input, or we would need to process certain forms manually, requiring additional staff.

Is it worth the money and effort to do any or all of these things? 


Nobody - and let me repeat for emphasis, nobody - in this agency would dispute that. Unfortunately, all of these options require money, and we simply don't have any. After a hiring freeze, numerous early retirements, cuttimg programs, and procurement cutbacks, we're still in the red. I run this web site alone - I have help on the management side, but otherwise it's just me. Hiring additional staff was approved over a year ago, but we just can't afford them. Which means there are many things I would like to do with our web site - beyond the issue of forms distribution - that just aren't possible.

So, after October 1, we can look at our options again and begin to do things the *right* way. But at the moment, we need a solution that one overworked person can implement. Without such a solution, we simply won't make our forms available on-line for at least the next six months. Which benefits nobody at all.

>>> "Waddell, Cynthia" <cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us> 08/01/00 05:35PM >>>
Regarding your comment "2. Providing PDF forms. An argument could be made
that since we currently provide those forms only in paper, a
visually-impaired person would already require assistance in completing a
form, and PDF would be no worse. Unfortunately, it's also no better."

It is not necessarily true that a person who is blind or has low vision
would require assistance in completing a form.  If you noted the Section 508
proposed rule, an online form designed to be accessible would enable someone
using a screenreader to fill out the form.
Received on Wednesday, 2 August 2000 10:55:11 UTC

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